Pressuring Lego to part ways with Shell, putting a stop to the gendered marketing of toys and fighting for the survival of bees: these are the 10 campaigns that have taken 2014 by storm
Greenpeace: Lego’s partnership with Shell
This Greenpeace campaign gets top marks for recognising the creative opportunities that iconic Lego brand offered for engaging the public. While the Everything is NOT Awesome video was the most viewed in Greenpeace’s history, the images of Lego characters staging a series of protests outside Shell garages and international landmarks kept interest alive on social media. The online campaign was supported by a child-led protest outside Shell’s HQ highlighting the emotional link between climate change and future generations.
Lego announced in October that it would not renew its 50-year partnership with Shell. Possibly one of the most high-profile campaigns of all time, not everyone was convinced by the approach, believing it too simplistic and failing to acknowledge how entrenched oil is in society (not least as a raw material for Lego bricks).
The Pacific Climate Warriors (350.org): Canoes v Coal
The David versus Goliath campaign of the year. In October, a group of climate warriors from 13 Pacific Islands travelled to Australia to raise awareness of the impact of the fossil fuel industry on their homes and livelihoods. With the campaign slogan “we are not drowning, we are fighting” they used traditional handmade canoes to paddle out into the harbour of the world’s largest coal handling port to stop exports for a day. The Pacific Climate Warriors then joined Australians in peaceful occupations of fossil fuel companies.
The message that the islanders are no longer content to sit and wait as the “canary in the coal mine” for climate change was made very clear. The true measure of success will be if the islands are guaranteed a future.
Oxfam America: Behind the Brands
Oxfam is one of the few NGOs that seems able to balance the use of carrot and stick with major corporates, calling out bad performance while still celebrating the good.
Its Behind the Brands campaign encourages people to use its scorecard to tell the ‘Big 10’ food and beverage companies exactly what needs to change in their supply chains. In May, Oxfam started to highlight harmful food production practices that contribute to climate change. Kellogg and General Mills were identified as the worst offenders.
After only a few months of Oxfam applying the stick, both companies announced strengthened climate commitments. General Mills, previously ranked last on climate change policies, made some more ambitious commitments and was rewarded by a significant improvement in its climate score.
Let Toys Be Toys: ending gender labelling
Girls like pink, boys like blue. Girls like dolls, boys like superheroes. Retailers may think these old stereotypes hold true, but parents — their target consumers — don’t. A parent-led campaign, which grew out of a discussion thread on parenting site Mumsnet, brought together mums and dads frustrated by the rise of gender-based promotion and marketing to children.
After 14 retailers in the UK agreed to stop gendered marketing, the campaign was then extended to books, asking publishers and retailers to allow children to choose freely what kinds of books and stories interest them. In November, Dorling Kindersley, Chad Valley and Miles Kelly Books all confirmed that they will not be publishing new titles labelled for boys and girls. Ladybird also pledged to stop labelling books in this way as it did not want “to be seen limiting children”.
Avaaz: Peoples’ Climate March
The growth in people-powered campaign movements has been one of the campaign success stories of the last decade. With more than 40 million members globally, it is relatively easy for organisations such as Avaaz to mobilise protestors. In September, hundreds of thousands of people marched in New York, London and across the world calling for 100% clean energy from policymakers and business.
A small number of progressive business leaders from IKEA, Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s and NRG joined the myriad campaigning organisations. Patagonia closed its stores so that its employees could join the march alongside chief executive Rose Marcario.
Although it is difficult to assess the tangible impact of such protest events, the day was seen by many as a seminal moment in the climate change movement. It made the front page of many national newspapers, increasing pressure on politicians and decision-makers worldwide. President Obama acknowledged the occasion in his regular address: “Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call.”
WWF UK: Save Virunga
Virunga, Africa’s oldest national park, came under threat when the Congolese government awarded three concessions for oil exploration. Save Virunga is a global initiative that gives a voice to local communities who depend on the survival of the park for their livelihoods and recognises how important local actors are to the long-term survival of protected areas.
WWF-UK added its weight to the campaign in 2013, filing a complaint against oil company Soco under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Meanwhile 750,000 WWF supporters signed a petition, and in June 2014 Soco announced that it would end its operations in the park.
The cause has just been given a boost by the film Virunga, backed by actor Leonardo di Caprio, which is being broadcast on Netflix. The movie brings the focus back to the local communities, telling the tale of the park rangers and the risks that they are taking to protect one of the world’s richest pockets of biodiversity that is home to some of the last mountain gorillas.
Platform London: Oil and Arts Sponsorship
With a focus on the oil sector, Platform uses education, exhibitions, art events and book projects to inspire change. One focus area is sponsorship of major art and cultural institutions.
In June, as part of the Art Not Oil coalition, a week of creative activism took place around the opening of the National Portrait Gallery’s opening of the BP Portrait Award. In one protest, 25 performers had oil poured over their faces and created “portraits” throughout the gallery.
Platform also published Picture This — A Portrait of 25 Years of BP Sponsorship, which looked back at the chequered social and environmental history of BP and the role of art in society in relation to ethics and sponsorship. While no notable victory has been recorded, this campaign has started to stigmatise cultural and arts institutions funded by oil companies in a similar way to the highly successful fossil-fuel divestment campaign.
Friends of the Earth: The Bee Cause
Launched in 2012, this campaign scored a notable victory in the UK in 2014 when the UK government announced it was to launch a National Pollinator Strategy — a 10 year plan to help pollinating insects survive and thrive.
In the last few years, much attention has been paid to the plight of bees and their loss of habitat. Alongside traditional campaign tactics, Friends of the Earth also provided practical advice on the creation of bee-friendly spaces and asked supporters to pledge to provide food, water and nesting spaces for bees.
38 Degrees: Matalan #PayUp
On April 24 2012, a building housing five garment factories in Bangladesh collapsed killing 1,138 people and injuring more than 2,000. Many of the major brands whose products were manufactured at the Rana Plaza factory contributed to the official compensation fund for survivors and their families. Matalan was the only major British retailer not to donate — until 38 Degrees launched the #PayUp campaign that is.
Following pressure from members of 38 Degrees, Matalan announced it had paid into the official compensation fund, but would not disclose how much. In a hyper-transparent world this was seen by 38 Degrees as an incomplete response and its members took the campaign to the high streets and directly to Matalan’s stores. Following this action the company finally divulged the amount and, while £60,000 was seen as a win by 38 Degrees, the organisation is keeping up the pressure on Matalan to donate more.
350.org: Fossil Fuel Divestment
The fastest growing divestment campaign ever, the movement had a turning point in the US this year when it was announced that the Rockefellers Brothers Fund would withdraw its investments from fossil fuels investments.
The campaign first took hold in the US with Bill McKibben’s Do the Math speaking tour. The activist took to the road by bus and at each venue in the US was joined by artists, actors and musicians, all working together to empower the audience to act through a mix of music, interactive, video and discussions. The campaign is now seeing success in Europe, with the University of Glasgow the first academic institution to announce it will divest. This was followed by the Diocese of Oxford becoming the first religious institution to follow suit.
Originally published at www.theguardian.com on December 24, 2014.